Tampa Bay History Center

Tampa Bay History Center
Located beside the Garrison Channel in downtown Tampa, the Tampa Bay History Center (TBHC) defines its mission as “discovering, preserving, and interpreting the rich cultural heritage of the Tampa Bay region.”

Museum History

Beginning in the 1880s, there had been public concern about preserving the history of the Tampa Bay area. But it was not until 1989 that The History Museum of Tampa-Hillsborough County, Inc. was established by a group of citizens led by Tampa businessman J. Thomas Touchton.

In 1993, the museum opened its doors in the Shoppes of Harbour Island and officially changed its name to the Tampa Bay History Center. Then, in 1996, it moved to the Tampa Convention Center Annex on Franklin Street. Finally, after raising millions of dollars in public and private funding, the museum moved into a new 60,000-square-foot, LEED-Certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) "Green Building” in 2009, that it currently occupies.

Layout and Exhibits

The main entrance to the museum is off Old Water Street in the Channelside District of downtown Tampa. Permanent collections are located on the second and third floors, while temporary exhibits are housed on the fourth floor. On the second floor you will also find a small gift shop and the Columbia Café, a branch of the original Columbia Restaurant of Ybor City, that serves Cuban and Spanish dishes.

Consistent with its mission, all the exhibits in the museum are slanted more to the human history of the Tampa Bay region than to its natural history. The exhibits on the second floor begin with the indigenous people of the area and its early Spanish explorers. There is also a walk-through display that tells the story of the cigar making industry in Tampa. The permanent exhibits of historic artifacts continue on the third floor.

There are currently two temporary exhibits occupying the 4th floor. “Navigating in the Age Before GPS: Nautical Charts of Florida and the Caribbean” presents historic navigational methods before the age of satellites. Children will especially enjoy the interactive pirate ship experience. This exhibit is available through December 2018. “A History of Conservation: A Bird’s Eye View” is a joint effort of TBHC and Audubon Florida. The display contains drawings and paintings of Florida birds from 19th-century through contemporary artists. A history of the conservation movement in Florida is also featured. This exhibit runs through 10 February 2019.

While you are on the 4th floor, be sure to step out onto Dave’s Crow’s Nest balcony for a wonderful view of the harbor area and the Hillsborough River.

Hours, Location, and Access

TBHC is open every day from 10a.m. to 5p.m., except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, when it is closed. It closes at 3p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The Columbia Café is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

TBHC is located at 801 Old Water St., within walking distance of the downtown hotels and Tampa Bay Convention Center. The museum has no parking of its own, so your parking options are nearby surface lots and garages. Channelside Parking Garage can be found at 369 S 12th St., South Regional Garage is at 301 Channelside Dr. Another option is to park in Ybor City and ride the TECOLine streetcar to the museum.

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